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International mass gatherings can cause great challenges to local healthcare system and emergency medical services (EMS). Traditionally, planning has been based on retrospective reports of previous events, but there still is a need for prospective studies in order to make the process more evidence-based. The aim of this study was to analyze the success of medical preparedness, ambulance patient characteristics, emergency care, and the use of pre-hospital resources during the 2005 World Championship Games in Athletics in Helsinki, Finland.
The study was a prospective, observational study conducted within the Helsinki EMS. Data from all emergency calls at the sport venues and Games village between 05 and 14 August 2005 were collected. Data from the organizations responsible for the health care and first aid of spectators and accredited persons (e.g., athletes, coaches, the press, very important persons and personnel working in the Games area) also were collected. The Institutional Review Board of Helsinki University Central Hospital approved the study plan.
A total of 479,000 persons visited the Games. The ambulance call incidence at the Olympic Stadium was 0.50 per 10,000 people and 0.7 per 10,000 when the Games Village was included. The overall need for ambulance transportation to the emergency department was 0.52 per 10,000. No patients needed cardiopulmonary resuscitation or other immediate, life-saving procedures on-site. First aid was provided to 554 spectators (0.17per 10,000 people). The three medical organizations cared for 1,586 patients of which 25 (1.6%) were transported to a hospital by an ambulance. The number of patients needing transportation and the overall patient loadfor the healthcare system was well-anticipated. Accredited persons sought health care a total of 1,009 times.The number of patients treated was associated closely with the number of spectators (p = 0.05). The number of ambulance calls in the city increased 5.9 % as compared to the corresponding time period in the five previous years.
The medical preparedness and resources for the Games proved to be sufficient. The EMS personnel were able to provide quality emergency care. This prospective study provided new, detailed data for the medical aspects of mass gatherings and confirmed many previous observations.
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